Sunset Beach Shells
June 2008 - October 30, 2009
Note: this list is out of date. There is a complete list of the 198 species that I have found at The Shells of Sunset Beach. I will update the lists below as soon as possible. If you have found additional species and can document them, I will be pleased to add them to this list. Jo O'Keefe, May 11, 2010
|With three exceptions, during 2008 and in 2009 I found 181 species of mollusks on the eastern point of Sunset Beach. I found the octopi, sea hares and Scotch Bonnets earlier. Beneath the two lists you can read how I found the shells. I have taught many visitors how to find them. Directly below this paragraph is the list prepared by Dr. Harry Lee, a renowned malacologist. Dr. Lee identified almost all of the shells. Photos of many of these species are at The Shells of Sunset Beach, with revised instructions on how to find them. Although photos of some shells are missing, it is unlikely that you would find those unless you become very serious about inspecting sea drift and sea grit. Soon I will add webpages with photos of live mollusks and of associated items such as egg cases.|
Say, 1822 Atlantic Nutclam
spirata (Philippi, 1836) West Indian Wormsnail
Sunset Beach (USA: NC, Brunswick Co.) marine mollusks collected by Jo O'Keefe. Alphabetized by vernacular or lay name; 176 species -- I will update these lay names later.
My system has become elaborate and complicated. Yours does not need to be this way. If you carry seaweed or sea drift back to your beach cottage, simply rinse it in a sieve (best) or colander. Then spread it on paper towels on the kitchen counter. Plug in a lamp next to it; perhaps remove the shade. You should find many animals.
For nearly two years I have been inspecting seaweed. My goal was to find microscopic animals to study and to save for researchers. When a man-made object such as fishing line or an elastic hair band is in the ocean, seaweed and egg cases get caught in it. Soon there is a big clump bursting with marine life -- exactly what I want. It is brimming with small gastropod shells with tiny hermit crabs residing within them. Amphipods called skeleton shrimp crawl on my fingers and hands. They look like thin beige sugar ants. There are numerous other animals such as sea spiders, barnacles, minute crabs, eggs, bryozoans, hydrozoans and portions of sponges.
I seldom walk in the ocean. The seaweed I find is on the beach or right at the edge of the water.
At home, before I begin inspecting seaweed, I place dishes to my right with ocean water in them. I dip my finger into the water to release the small animal or shell that I found. That lets brittle stars, amphipods, isopods and minute crabs live. Later I photograph live animals later through my microscope.
One evening I found 600 shells in seaweed. On another I found nearly one thousand shells. Almost all shells in seaweed are gastropods.
During the first year, I used only my hands and normal vision. Since June, 2008, I have used a 5X illuminating magnifier, the round circular magnifiers used on crime shows to examine evidence. It tremendously increased my ability to find items in the seaweed. I purchased professional forceps to be able to extract minute, fragile animals. Initially I was interested in tiny animals such as amphipods, isopods, worms, sea spiders and brittle stars. I saved them for scientists and photographed some for my website. Before long I realized that the seaweed contained numerous species of mollusks. It was then that I heard of Harry Lee who has partnered with me to identify the Shells of Sunset Beach.
I knowingly take home seaweed with small hermit crabs inside seashells because I am researching. After I spend up to four hours going to the beach, walking, and coming home, and then several more hours inspecting seaweed, the animals are not in good enough health to return to the ocean. Despite the demise of hermit crabs, I save mollusk shells for facilities that want micromollusk collections. Visitors staying at the beach who take seaweed to their cottages to inspect would be able to release the animals.
2. Sea Drift
I gather sea drift or debris at the ends of the "scallops" made by the lapping water at the eastern point of Sunset Beach. I put sea drift into containers with lids such as yogurt containers. Although Ziplock bags can be used, they increase the risk of breakage. At the beach I only collect sea drift. Inspection occurs at home.
Initially I used an 8-inch-wide child's plastic sieve, the type included in a net bag of beach toys. After filling the sieve, I carried it to the edge of the water and swished it back and forth to remove the sand. After that the shells stand out. I bring the same child's sieve on each trip even now to be able to demonstrate the wonders of sea drift to beachcombers.
Most Sunset Beacht sea drift is composed of worm tubes that can be discarded. Below is a photo of worm tubes. There are many Rainbow and Many-colored Tellins and Green Jackknife Clams in the sea drift. Sea drift has far more bivalves than gastropods. It has countless treats such as crab carapaces, tiny crabs and brittle stars.
A second type of sea drift looks like chards of broken shell. In it are countless minute mollusks -- shells. Shell debris is easier to rinse in sieves and inspect than the debris with worm tubes. There is less of it on the east end of Sunset Beach.
At home, I rinse the sea drift in a series of sieves ordered via the Internet. However, recently I purchased three inexpensive kitchen sieves with handles that work equally well.
I spread the material on several layers of newspaper to dry. A blow dryer on a low setting or a fan would help. One friend "roasts" his at a low temperature in his oven. I wait several days for it to dry before inspecting it.
As I described above, I use a 5X illuminating magnifier to inspect dry sea drift. An important addition is a solid, colored background. White will not work for shell debris. The item on which you inspect shells should be poster board or plastic -- not cloth. It can be the plastic lid of a bin used to bring items to your beach house. I pour a pile on the back edge of a 12 X 15 piece of dark posterboard and then gently move a small amount forward. Using my forceps, I separate it to find mollusks and other invertebrate animals. Any fine tool could be used.
Each time sea drift is handled, shells break. Minimize contact.
Dr. Harry Lee continues to identify the mollusks for me. I can never thank him for his months of patience and work. I have posted photos of many shells on this website. No shell more than one-fourth inch wide fits within the frame of my camera when I take a photo through my microscope. The photo of the Rainbow Tellin shown below demonstrates that. Rainbow Tellins are so thin that even when intact with both valves, the only way to pick them up at home is by wetting my finger. Below are photos of the sea drift that I examine and a Rainbow Tellin. You might be able to see pink tellins in the sea drift.
Jo O'Keefe Copyright 2010. Photos may be used for educational purposes only. Contact me with inquiries.
Below are some sample photos. You can see additional microscopic photos of micro shell at The Shells of Sunset Beach.